Illustration courtesy of WANNEMACHER JENSEN ARCHITECTS
The latest artist’s rendition of the proposed Madeira Beach Municipal Center complex.
MADEIRA BEACH – In rapid-fire fashion, the city of Madeira Beach is moving toward beginning construction of a $10 million municipal center.
Following the validation on Aug. 30 of up to $6.5 million in bonds to help finance the project, the City Commission unanimously voted to approve issuing the bonds at the Sept. 10 city commission meeting.
The $6.5 million is a limit that cannot be exceeded and City Manager Shane Crawford said the amount of debt the city would likely assume on the project would be closer to $4.5 million. Crawford said setting the maximum at $6.5 million gives the city some flexibility to make changes and adjustments down the line as the project is put together.
The commission’s action means the city will be able to go into the marketplace to sell the bonds in early October, said Jeff Larson of Larson Consulting Services, the city’s financial adviser on the municipal center.
Larson said the bonds will be priced on Oct. 9. On that date, the city’s interest rate will be locked in and fixed, he said. The bonds can then be marketed when the time is right. The city would benefit by having interest rates as low as possible to lower the cost of borrowing, Larson said.
“Pray for bad news on the international scene, or another negative occurrence that will drive interest rates down,” Larson jokingly told the commission.
He said the city “wants to sell as many bonds as possible at as low an interest rate as possible.”
Commenting on recent changes in the bond market, which has caused interest rates to rise somewhat, Mayor Travis Palladeno said, “I wish we had gotten started sooner and saved a little more money.”
Larson called Madeira Beach’s A2 bond rating “a real achievement.” He said it is hard for a small city on a barrier island like Madeira Beach to get a higher ranking. The relatively high bond rating helps reduce the risk for potential bondholders and helps investors feel more comfortable, Larson said.
Money from the bond sale will show up in the city’s account after the bond closing on Oct. 24, Larson said. Debt payments for the project cannot exceed $300,000 per year, he said.
Financing for the municipal center is coming from three sources. Besides bond money, there is about $3.3 million from the sale of the city sewer system several years ago, and reserve funds. The bond money will be spent first, followed by the sewer sale proceeds, Larson said.
By approving the issuing of the bonds, Crawford said the commission has now committed the city to the municipal center project. It includes a new city hall, fire station, multipurpose building, recreation center and upgrades to the ball fields.
Crawford said the municipal center undertaking is actually two projects that are intertwined.
“You have taken care of the money part today,” he said. “Now comes the brick and mortar.”
A major uncertainty in the municipal center project as it progresses forward has been the possibility of a successful referendum drive that could force the city to limit the project to a city hall and fire station only. That potential stumbling block was likely removed on the day of the commission meeting, City Attorney Thomas Trask said.
“A significant date has passed today,” Trask told the commission. He said the time had passed for opponents of the project who had opposed the bond validation to file for a rehearing. Opposition arguments caused the judge at the bond validation hearing to hold up his ruling in favor for a week.
A 30-day notice to appeal the judge’s decision still had 20 days to run, Trask said, but an appeal is considered unlikely. In fact, the opponents’ attorney said that his clients “now believe they have fought the good fight and are willing to abide by the wishes of the court.”
Drainage pipe cleaning slowed
Uncooperative tides have delayed the cleanout of approximately 120 drainage and outfall pipes throughout the city.
“We haven’t done as many as we had hoped,” said Central Services Director Dave Marsicano. The reason, he said, is “We have been challenged by high tides.”
There will be only 14 days in the month of September when the tides will cooperate, he said.
Cleaning and repair of the pipes has been a critical step in the city’s effort to control flooding problems that have affected large areas of the city. The pipes also are being videotaped to help assess their condition.
The pipe cleanout project is continuing, despite the difficulties, Marsicano said. In a comment following the meeting, he said only about 21 of the 120 pipes had been addressed so far, mostly in the Crystal Island area that is considered the most flood prone.